Missing the Basics

12 comments:

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Chris,

Thank you so much for posting your video response to a couple statements from my blog. Really, it's quite flattering that you should do this.

The gist of the statements you have made in your response eloquently confirms my point when I stated:

What RK’s response to LeBlanc essentially amounts to is the confession “that’s what I read in the bible and I believe it” (and therefore it must be true), and models nothing more than utterly indiscriminate gullibility

Of course, as both LeBlanc and I have pointed out, this simply begs the question. Also, the claim that the question on the floor is "fallaciously complex" was anticipated in my response, and if you read the entirety of what I said, you might discover this.

As a bonus, I found your several mentions of "Sunday school" rather amusing. This portion of your talk plays right into the points I make in my blog With Minds of Children.

Regards,
Dawson

Brian Knapp said...

Dawson -

I unfortunately don't get to spend much time here, but I have been following your back and forth with Chris with much interest. I also don't know nearly as much about you and the philosophy you espouse as Chris knows, but I have to say I am quite surprised with your most recent comments that follow:


What RK’s response to LeBlanc essentially amounts to is the confession “that’s what I read in the bible and I believe it” (and therefore it must be true), and models nothing more than utterly indiscriminate gullibility

Of course, as both LeBlanc and I have pointed out, this simply begs the question.


I find it truly remarkable that you would make such an obvious blunder as this, Dawson. The argument is presuppositional in nature, after all - something you have supposedly spent much time investigating.

If the Christian worldview is one's most basic presupposition, then obviously one is going to ultimately appeal to the Bible in answering any question at all. If one did not appeal to it, then it obviously isn't one's most basic presupposition. This necessarily includes questions about why one believes that the Bible is true. It is foolish to simply dismiss an appeal to one's foundational presupposition as begging the question. It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what presuppositionalism is, and the role that presuppositions play in everyone's reasoning.


Chris makes the following statement in his video which is an excellent summation of why we argue as we do:

"The God that we as presuppositiuonal apologists defend is the God of Christian scripture. We do not care about other conceptions of God."

This is an excellent response to one of the biggest problems many people have debating a presuppositionalist, namely the fact that they project the deficiencies of their own worldview onto Christianity in their attempt to argue against it.

We don't presuppose a God with fur; we don't presuppose one who lies; we don't presuppose one who acts contrary to his nature. You can pose hypotheticals all day long about gods that are different from the God of the Bible, but be assured the response will always be "but that's not the God of the Bible", just as it should be.


As to Sunday School - please understand how amusing we find it when people ask us how it is possible that we know what we do about God, when the very thing being debated (the Bible) is the very answer to that question.

BK

Bahnsen Burner said...

Brian,

You wrote:

“The argument is presuppositional in nature

In his debate with Mitch LeBlanc, RazorsKiss says plainly (in his rebuttal to LeBlanc): “I’m not arguing for the existence of God. That is not the point of the debate.” You may want to familiarize yourself with what RK says in his debate.

Moreover, as I showed in my examination of RK’s statements, he produces no argument whatsoever for the position he is defending. (See for instance here.)

So to say that “the argument is presuppositional in nature” mistakenly assumes that there is an argument where in fact there is none.

Moreover, simply because one affirms a position as one of “presuppositional” nature, this does not exempt it from scrutiny. You can affirm the position that “God does not lie” as “presuppositional,” but you should still be prepared to defend it when someone calls it into question, rather than simply hiding behind the word “presuppositional” as if this put it beyond questioning. To say that an adherent of Christianity “is going to ultimately appeal to the Bible in answering any question at all,” only seals the point. If the bible is the only source of non-inferential information about the nature of your god which you have at your disposal, and you depend on this source for any knowledge about your god’s character, how can you be sure that it is being truthful in what it discloses about itself? To say that what the bible says is true and point to what it says as support for this position, simply begs the question. You may like begging the question when it’s in favor of a position you prefer, but this would not change its fallacious nature.

You say that “If one did not appeal to it, then it obviously isn't one's most basic presupposition.” But in fact, Christians do presuppose more fundamental facts (including the Objectivist axioms), though they typically do not admit this. I have shown this on my blog as well. (See for example here.)

When you say that “It is foolish to simply dismiss an appeal to one's foundational presupposition as begging the question,” I might agree if in fact the bible could serve as a fundamental presupposition and one were attempting to produce arguments to prove its (alleged) truth. But it cannot, and I’ve shown this as well (see previous link). You might want to take some time to familiarize yourself with the criticisms which I bring forth in my review of RK’s debate. These and many other points are brought out. But you would need to read it first. Since I doubt you have, you’re essentially jumping into the conversation rather late, and thus are not benefiting from what has been validated and confirmed prior to your arrival.

Your final statement was:

“please understand how amusing we find it when people ask us how it is possible that we know what we do about God, when the very thing being debated (the Bible) is the very answer to that question.”

This simply confirms that you have no alternative to arguing in a circle when your theistic premises are questioned. You may not like this, but that’s not my problem.

Regards,
Dawson

Brian Knapp said...

Dawson -

I said: “The argument is presuppositional in nature



You responded: In his debate with Mitch LeBlanc, RazorsKiss says plainly (in his rebuttal to LeBlanc): “I’m not arguing for the existence of God. That is not the point of the debate.” You may want to familiarize yourself with what RK says in his debate.

Where did I say RK was arguing for the existence of God?

What I said was “the argument is presuppositional in nature”. Presuppositionalism is a method of argumentation that seeks to expose the presuppositions individuals have which play such a large role in dictating the conclusions they come to. If one is Presuppositional in their methodology, then they are going to apply that methodology no matter the topic at hand.

If you are truly uninitiated enough about Presuppositionalism as a method to think it is exclusively used in arguments for the existence of God, then I suggest you go back and do some more reading on the subject. Both Chris and I (and RK for that matter) would be more than happy to help bring you up to speed in this area.


You said: Moreover, as I showed in my examination of RK’s statements, he produces no argument whatsoever for the position he is defending. (See for instance here.)

I was present for the debate between RK and ML, and know exactly what RK successfully argued for.


You said: So to say that “the argument is presuppositional in nature” mistakenly assumes that there is an argument where in fact there is none.

RK’s argument was, indeed, presuppositional. It doesn’t surprise me that you see it otherwise (as a non-argument, in this case) considering what you have already demonstrated above about your propensity to argue against something you don’t yet fully grasp. But I digress, and my point remains. RK’s appeal to scripture is expected (necessary, even) as a Christian Presuppositionalist, and you should know this - thus my surprise, and (by extension) my initial response to you above.


You said: Moreover, simply because one affirms a position as one of “presuppositional” nature, this does not exempt it from scrutiny.

Where did I say RK’s position should not be scrutinized?

The problem isn’t with scrutiny of our position at all; it is with the rather persistent misunderstanding/misrepresentation of what the position actually entails.


You said: You can affirm the position that “God does not lie” as “presuppositional,” but you should still be prepared to defend it when someone calls it into question, rather than simply hiding behind the word “presuppositional” as if this put it beyond questioning. ... and ... To say that what the bible says is true and point to what it says as support for this position, simply begs the question.

You posit a valid concern. However, since the topic of the debate was neither the existence of God, nor the veracity of scripture, it doesn’t surprise me that RK didn’t spend his time arguing for either of those positions. He instead argued for the resolution at hand - that the Triune God of the Scriptures is the basis for knowledge.

There are, however, plenty of examples of Presuppositionalists who have taken the next logical step and argued for both the Bible and the existence of God. I recommend the most excellent debate between Dr. Greg Bahnsen and Dr. Gordon Stein as one such example.

(continued ...)

Brian Knapp said...

(Part 2)

You said: You say that “If one did not appeal to it, then it obviously isn't one's most basic presupposition.” But in fact, Christians do presuppose more fundamental facts (including the Objectivist axioms), though they typically do not admit this. I have shown this on my blog as well. (See for example here.)

What you have shown on your blog, in excruciating detail, is just what your presuppositions are. You may call them “genuinely axiomatic” (according to your own stipulated criteria) but your ability to define things as you do, apply logic as you try, and come to the abundant incorrect conclusions you do ultimately derives itself from the Triune God of the Bible. This tell-tale claim of the Christian Presuppositionalist is consistent through the writings/debates/radio shows/etc. of people such as Bahnsen and Van Til, and you have done nothing so far as I can see to refute this claim.


You said: ... you’re essentially jumping into the conversation rather late, and thus are not benefiting from what has been validated and confirmed prior to your arrival.

I’m not too worried about your critique of RK’s side of the debate, since I was present for the event myself, and have re-read the transcript (at least) once since that time. If I can find the time (I have already spent a good hour or two just putting this response together) then I might read through your 9-part miniseries, but don’t get your hopes up.

Regardless of what you have to say elsewhere, you have yet to refute what I have shared in our conversation.


I said: “please understand how amusing we find it when people ask us how it is possible that we know what we do about God, when the very thing being debated (the Bible) is the very answer to that question.”

You said: This simply confirms that you have no alternative to arguing in a circle when your theistic premises are questioned. You may not like this, but that’s not my problem.

I am a little surprised at such a self-serving statement as this, that is completely devoid of any reason to accept it as a true conclusion. If this discussion is to degrade to nothing more than making bold pronouncements such as this, without even a modicum of support, then I don’t see much of a future for dialogue.

BK

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hello Brian,

You wrote:

“If you are truly uninitiated enough about Presuppositionalism as a method to think it is exclusively used in arguments for the existence of God, then I suggest you go back and do some more reading on the subject.”

I never stated that presuppositionalism “is exclusively used in arguments for the existence of God.” I am quite aware of presuppositionalism’s intended aims, its devices, its gimmicks.

“I was present for the debate between RK and ML, and know exactly what RK successfully argued for… He… argued for the resolution at hand - that the Triune God of the Scriptures is the basis for knowledge.”

I have examined the transcript of the debate quite closely. I could not find an actual argument for the claim that the Christian god is the basis of knowledge. I saw this position asserted quite frequently, and RK apparently felt the need to build it into his view through what he called “axioms.” But I did not see an argument. If you did, could you reproduce it? What are the premises? I’d love to examine it.

“RK’s appeal to scripture is expected (necessary, even) as a Christian Presuppositionalist, and you should know this”

Of course I know this. This is why I pointed out that presuppositionalists have no alternative to arguing in a circle when their theistic premises are questioned.

“I recommend the most excellent debate between Dr. Greg Bahnsen and Dr. Gordon Stein as one such example.”

Interesting you bring up the Bahnsen-Stein debate. In the initial installment of my review of RK’s debate, I stated the following:

”In reviewing RK’s opening statement, I was reminded of Greg Bahnsen’s opening statement in his celebrated debate with Gordon Stein, in that, like Bahnsen, RK seems to present no argument at all for his position. Rather, like Bahnsen, RK prefers simply to repeat what his position affirms without providing any rationale for supposing any of it is true. In this way RK presents in his opening statement little more than a lengthy description of what his position advocates, with no case defending the claim that what he describes is true.”

In the blog linked to in this quote, you’ll find my examination of Bahnsen’s opening statement. I found no argument for the existence of a god, only the assumption that one exists and that everyone who disputes it is wrong. Bahnsen does not give a proof, but rather a poof! But if you think Bahnsen actually did present an argument here, I’d love to see what its premises are, and how they establish the existence of a god.

(continued...)

Bahnsen Burner said...

(Part 2)



“What you have shown on your blog, in excruciating detail, is just what your presuppositions are. You may call them “genuinely axiomatic” (according to your own stipulated criteria)”

I’ve seen no successful refutations of the Objectivist axioms. Indeed, they would have to be true in order to try to refute them. Nor have I seen any good arguments against their status as axioms. As for criteria, it is not clear to me what presuppositionalism identifies as the proper criteria for a statement to be axiomatic. The criteria I have applied in my blog on the topic are:

- objective
- conceptually irreducible
- perceptually self-evident
- undeniably true
- universal

Do you think that an axiom should not be objective, conceptually irreducible, perceptually self-evident, undeniably true and universal? If so, I’d like to know why.

“but your ability to define things as you do, apply logic as you try, and come to the abundant incorrect conclusions you do ultimately derives itself from the Triune God of the Bible.”

This is the kind of claim that I see very often from presuppositionalists. I’m very aware of what presuppositionalists claim. But I have yet to see any non-question-begging support for such assertions. It is, as you yourself stated about something I wrote, “completely devoid of any reason to accept it as a true conclusion… without even a modicum of support.”

“ This tell-tale claim of the Christian Presuppositionalist is consistent through the writings/debates/radio shows/etc. of people such as Bahnsen and Van Til, and you have done nothing so far as I can see to refute this claim.”

This tell-tale claim merely reveals that you have not read my writings. You could, for instance, check out my paper on why logic does not presuppose the Christian god. I begin this paper by reviewing a variety of presuppositionalist claims to the effect that logic does presuppose the Christian god, and in reviewing it I find a number of internal problems, and essentially nothing by way of a serious argument which supports such a conclusion. Following this, I develop several reasons why logic cannot presuppose the Christian god, specifically (a) that Christianity lacks objectivity, (b) it lacks a theory of concepts, (c) the notion of “Christ” is internally self-contradictory, and (d) the trinity is logically incoherent. If what I argue in this paper is true, then that would be sufficient to refute the claim you repeated above.

Regards,
Dawson

C.L. Bolt said...

You never stated that presup is exclusively used in arguments for the existence of God but you did assume it when you quoted RK as stating that he was not arguing for the existence of God in an effort to refute Brian’s statement that the argument [that the Bible is true] is presuppositional in nature. If you did not throw these irrelevant tidbits in people would have an easier time responding to you but maybe this is not what you want.

“I am quite aware of presuppositionalism’s intended aims, its devices, its gimmicks...I’m very aware of what presuppositionalists claim.”

Yet you want us to consider arguing for a god who has fur and ask for the premises for what I presume would be a syllogistic deductive argument. Stating repeatedly that there is no argument does not mean that there is not one as any good Objectivist should know. If all of your long and numerous posts contain such fundamental misunderstandings (or worse, misrepresentations) of presup then why should I take the time to read them when they are almost exclusively about presup?

Bahnsen Burner said...

Chris wrote: “you want us to consider arguing for a god who has fur”

Actually, no, not for “a god who has fur,” but rather for your identification of what you call “God” as a god in the first place. If you believe a supernatural being has communicated to you, and your only source of information about the identity of this alleged supernatural being is whatever this supernatural being chooses to disclose to you, how do you determine that what it chooses to disclose to you is true or not?

This brings up another question. If RK does not argue for the existence of his god in his defense of the thesis that “the Triune God of the Scriptures” is “the basis of knowledge,” why suppose his case has any merit to begin with? RK states clearly that he is not arguing for the existence of his god. So if he presents any case for “the Triune God of the Scriptures” as “the basis of knowledge” (which has yet to be made clear - someone commenting on the transcript of the debate over at Urban Philosophy even asked "RK, what exactly is your argument?"), he could very well be arguing for a thesis which depends on something that does not exist in the first place. This is quite an oversight, wouldn’t you say? Or do you think it’s proper simply to take the existence of said god for granted?

Chris: “and ask for the premises for what I presume would be a syllogistic deductive argument.”

If you think that RK has presented an argument where I did not find one (namely for the thesis that “the Triune God of the Scriptures” is “the basis of knowledge”), I would love to see it in syllogistic form, particularly one assembled from statements taken from RK’s own side of the debate. If you are not willing to do this, then perhaps Brian might?

Chris: “Stating repeatedly that there is no argument does not mean that there is not one as any good Objectivist should know.”

Of course. My statement is observational, not stipulative.

Chris: “If all of your long and numerous posts contain such fundamental misunderstandings (or worse, misrepresentations) of presup then why should I take the time to read them when they are almost exclusively about presup?”

First of all, you have not established that all of my posts “contain such fundamental misunderstandings” or misrepresentations of presup. This would be an egregiously wild overgeneralization from your own misunderstanding of a statement I have made. Second, in Brian’s 1 Sept. comment, he indicated that both you and he “would be more than happy” to help educate me in areas where you think I’ve gotten things wrong. Perhaps he was wrong to speak on your behalf.

Ultimately, though, Chris, it's your choice if you want to have a dialogue. I'm ready and willing.

Regards,
Dawson

Mitchell LeBlanc said...

Hello Chris,

I will be authoring a reply to your video in a little bit. Afterwards, I'll return and post the link.

I am glad that the debate between RK and myself has been an enjoyable (or at least thought-provoking) read.

Cheers!

Mitchell LeBlanc said...

I have written and published a response to you @ http://urbanphilosophy.net/philosophy/a-response-to-chris-bolt-on-presuppositionalism-and-gods-honesty/

Cheers!

C.L. Bolt said...

Thank you Mitch, I will get to it as soon as I can.